The Sad, Sleazy Truth

Ted-Cruz

 

I know it was the National Enquirer, so I guess we have to take it with a grain or two of salt, but I still found it shocking. I was standing in line at the supermarket when I saw the headline – Ted Cruz is some kind of stud who has had extramarital affairs with at least five women.

Hard to believe? Of course. Where would he find so many willing partners? Only the grossest imagination could conjure up images of Ted Cruz waxing romantic.

But you never know about women. They find all kinds of unlikely men attractive. Richard the Third, for example.

So you say shame on me for bringing up the presidential candidate’s private life? You say he has a right to privacy and what he does behind closed doors is his own business?

And I say what about John Edwards? The Democratic presidential candidate’s career was ruined after the Enquirer spilled the beans about his affair. Remember?

What candidates for public office do in private is not out of bounds, especially when they sanctimoniously bleat about “family values” and propose policies punishing others for unorthodox sexual preferences.

Ted Cruz is more sanctimonious than most. He panders to “evangelical voters” with the fiercest kind of Bible thumping. And his religion is not one of forgiveness and love but the Old Testament kind of fire and brimstone.

The Republican Party courts the Religious Right shamelessly while many Republican politicians pursue the most reprobate recreational activities. So many names spring to mind – David Vitter… Larry Craig… Dennis Hastert… Mark Sanford… Mark Foley …

Yes, I know Democrats have extramarital affairs, too. But you don’t hear Democrats preaching about family values and persecuting gays, do you?

Those anti-gay activists are among the worst offenders. Dozens of them have turned out to be secretly gay.

If the Enquirer story about Cruz is genuine – and I’m told the Enquirer checks its sources – then he should slink off into the shadows. We’ve heard enough from him and his kind.

Click for the Cruz scandal.

Click for the Edwards scandal.

Click for more on sex scandals.

 

North Carolina’s Shame

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My brother Peter called yesterday to wish me a belated happy birthday and, as usual, we chatted on the phone for quite a while. He lives in North Carolina and loves it. Indeed, he waxed quite lyrical about the spring there – the blue sky, trees sprouting little buds, flowers blossoming and so on.

He did not mention the shameful bill that North Carolina’s legislature just passed and Governor  Pat McCrory quickly signed into law.

I suppose most of the state’s residents are responding the same way. After all, the new law doesn’t have anything to do with them so why should they care?

That’s the attitude most of us tend to have. And that’s the reason repressive Republican legislatures are sneakily turning back the clock across the country.

For example, the North Carolina bill targets gays, and most of the state’s residents are straight. In states like North Carolina, Republican legislatures are forcing abortion clinics to close and passing humiliating laws against women who want to have an abortion. As most people are not pregnant – and some of us aren’t ever going to get pregnant – reaction against these repugnant laws is muted.

The North Carolina law just passed was triggered by a Charlotte city ordinance that allows transgendered people to use the public washrooms that fit their changed identity. In other words, if you were a man and are now a woman, you could go to the ladies’ room.

The legislature reacted with horror, passing a bill to prevent North Carolina cities from adopting such lenient ordinances. North Carolina is just one of several states targeting gays. Arizona, for example, passed similar legislation and according to an article in Salon.com this morning, there are similar laws pending in at least seven other states.

But after reading the Salon.com article, I decided I wouldn’t want to live in North Carolina – or even go there for a visit. I don’t care how blue the sky gets in the spring or how pretty the blossoms are.

Click for the article.

 

Dealing with Cuba

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For the past half century, America has been Cuba’s enemy, punishing the island’s people for the sins of its leaders. But, with typical common sense and compassion, President Obama is ending the long blockade at last.

When he arrives in Havana tomorrow, he will usher in a new day for the island’s 11 million people – and for many American business interests straining at the leash to exploit this potentially lucrative market.

The President will be accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha. Surely, even Raul Castro (above with Obama), wary though he is of this US detente, will be disarmed by America’s First Family.

But Cuba will not change overnight.

Ahead of his trip, Obama announced he is easing travel restrictions for Americans and restoring Cuba’s access to the global financial system. But the Castro government has been slow to respond by embracing trade with America. According to a PBS program I was listening to yesterday, several eager entrepreneurs have so far returned from the island  empty handed.

Disappointingly, the regime has been even more reluctant to relax its oppressive rule. Cuba is listed among the world’s most restrictive regimes. And there has been no suggestion of reform in return for ending the American embargo.

Republican leaders, including all of the party’s presidential candidates, oppose the President’s outreach to Cuba because they see few concessions from the Castro government in return.

And while President Obama will raise the issue of human rights reform during his visit, nobody expects the Castro regime to significantly change its harsh policies anytime soon.

cubaPresident Obama is looking beyond the immediate future. He knows that with America’s embrace, Cuba will inevitably become a different country, whether the Castro government likes it or not.

“Our central premise,” he said in a recent interview,”is that if they are suddenly exposed to the world, opened to America and our information and our culture and our visitors and our businesses, invariably they’re going to change.”

And it’s not just America that Cubans will be encountering first hand. Several other democratic countries, including Mexico, Canada and France, previously resumed normal relations with Cuba.

As the Cuban people become exposed to a less onerous way of life, even a regime as recalcitrant as Cuba’s must eventually see the light.

Click for more on the President’s visit.

 

But Who Will Stop Cruz?

 grinch

cruzAs the “Stop Trump” movement gathers steam, the Republican establishment is looking at Ted Cruz as a likely standard bearer in November’s presidential contest.

Ted Cruz!!!

These are frightening times, indeed.

When one of America’s major parties is obliged to rally behind Ted Cruz to keep Donald Trump from winning their nomination, this country is in deep trouble.

Yet even Senator Lindsey Graham, who has called Cruz every name in the book – referring to the choice between Cruz and Trump as getting shot or poisoned – is now endorsing him.

Cruz might be the most hated senator ever. And if he wins the White House, he is sure to go down in history as the most hated President ever.

He is personally unlikable – antagonistic, confrontational, mendacious and merciless.

Politically, he stands for everything divisive and dangerous, a religious zealot, an inveterate warmonger, a fiscal ultraconservative who would inflict the severest kind of austerity on Americans without the slightest twinge of compassion.

He is Trump in spades – minus the slurs and swagger.

Cruz is a fire-and-brimstone crusader whose religious beliefs are based on eye-for-an-eye Old Testament doctrine. This unyielding philosophical base drives a dangerous foreign policy approach.

Ted Cruz, Carpet Bomb, political cartoon

If you worry that there are people in the world today who hate America, you haven’t seen anything yet. Just wait until Cruz is America’s commander in chief!

He has assembled the most toxic crew of foreign policy advisors imaginable – including a disgraced Iran Contra conspirator, a “birther” journalist, and a right-wing nut described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “one of the country’s most notorious Islamophobes.”

If – abetted by the “Stop Trump” conspirators – Cruz slithers into the Republican nomination, I hope and pray that Trump will run as a Third Party candidate, splitting the right wing vote and ensuring a Hillary Clinton victory.

Anything else is too frightening to contemplate.

Click for Cruz’s foreign policy crew.

Click for the “Stop Trump” movement.

 

An Empty Gesture

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By nominating Merrick Garland to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia, President Obama put Republicans on the spot politically but missed an opportunity to fire up the Democratic base going into November’s general election.

Judge Garland seems to be a decent man and a good judge. But he is not by anyone’s definition “progressive.” In fact, he seems to lean to the right, especially on such vital issues as illegal police searches.

Of course the nomination is pure theater. Garland will not be confirmed this year – if at all.

Mitch McConnell is refusing to let the Senate hold hearings on the confirmation, and some senators won’t even meet with the man.

Nothing anyone says or does is going to change that – despite musings to the contrary by some TV pundits.

The Supreme Court vacancy will be filled by the next President. And if that happens to be Hillary, she might go with Garland out of respect for Obama. But she could choose someone else.

If it happens to be Bernie, you know he would prefer someone more left leaning.

And if the next President happens to be  a Republican, the empty seat will almost certainly be filled by a right-wing crusader who wants to ban abortion and probably even birth control.

And the court will move even farther to the right, reversing a century of enlightenment.

Is that’s the kind of America the voters want?

I wouldn’t have thought so, but with the stunning rise of Donald Trump, who knows?

Just like that movie, a lot of Americans are mad as hell and aren’t going to take it any more. They could very well decide to put a certifiable nut in the White House regardless of the consequences.

And they could get their way if the sane majority stay home in November the way they did last election.

Click for more on Judge Garland.

 

Where is Tiger?

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I bet you thought I would be pontificating on last night’s primary results this morning. But I’ve said about all I can think of when it comes to poltics. The people have spoken. And the people want Trump and Hillary to duke it out.  The rest is sound and fury, signifying nothing.

What concerns me today is Tiger’s continued absence from the PGA tour.

There’s not much excitement without Tiger, few OMG moments, no stars – just plodding journeymen who hit the ball a mile but can’t sink a three-foot putt when it matters. Canada’s Graham DeLaet, for example, must have had 40 putts in the final round at Innisbrook on Sunday.

And how about you, Jordan Spieth? What has happened to “the world’s best putter”? Do you need glasses at the ripe old age of 22?

This year’s PGA winners so far have either been yesterday’s stars or tomorrow’s prospects – players we’ve never heard of and may never hear of again. The most exciting player in last week’s Valspar tournament, for example, was a college kid named Lee McCoy.

Without Tiger, golf has lost its glamor.

And on the distaff side, the stars have names I can’t pronounce. Women’s golf is all Asian now.  Golf is losing fans in America while it gains popularity in places like China and Korea.

Look Tiger, I know you have a bad back. So do I, buddy. And I know it hurts like hell. But that doesn’t stop me from teeing it up. Sure, I wince sometimes, even flinch occasionally in mid-swing.  But it gives me a great excuse when my score soars.

And you’re just 40 years old, Tiger – less than half my age.

I saw that video of you swinging a club on the Internet the other day, and you looked good.

So come on back, Tiger.  Play through the pain – like Ben Hogan did.

The fans need you.

Click for more on Tiger.

Click for the Valspar tournament.

 

The Mosaic Unravels

bull_wall_streetAmerica is a miracle, a grand mosaic woven from disparate threads, patterned on such noble ideals as personal liberty, equal opportunity and one law for all.

But those ideals are aspirations rather than actuality. There have always been tacit exceptions. White privilege. Male dominance. Special consideration for the rich and famous.

And as some exceptions have diminished, others have become more rank with time. Power brings riches and riches bring power. That’s just the way it is.

And the madding crowd is its own worst enemy, distracted by the froth and frills of life, fawning at the feet of celebrities and seeking their own 15 seconds of fame… blinded by the spotlight, deafened by the crude rhythms of hyped-up “music”… hypnotized by the screens of their laptops and smart phones…

With a public that insists on being uninformed, misinformed and disinformed, the wizards of Wall Street and the corporate warlords have devised subtle stratagems to channel more and more of the nation’s wealth into their own pockets.

Instead of evolving into a more perfect union as the Founding Fathers had hoped, America has slowly but surely become an oligarchy in which the golden calf rules supreme.

Meanwhile, at every level of society, special interests compete for a bigger piece of the pie. Instead of focusing on the common good, on making a bigger and better pie, each sliver of society asks, “Where’s my share? What about me?”

Gone are the days when JFK could advise us to ask not what our country can do for us but ask what we can do for our country. That kind of wide-eyed idealism has been replaced by such primitive instincts as greed, resentment and jealousy.

In such a political climate, nobody can devise a program acceptable to everybody. As we go to the polls again today we go with our hands out for our own selfish gain, not with our arms open to embrace each other.

In such a political climate, I fear that a demagogue like Donald Trump will rise to power and the national mosaic will unravel into chaos.

 

Civil Disobedience

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vietnamAmerican politics has become so volatile that there is danger of violent confrontations between rival factions, and I think it’s time to step back and take a look down the road before we find we’ve gone too far.

Violence in American politics is not new. Remember the protests against the Vietnam War? The flag burning and the bombings? The Weather Underground? Students for a Democratic Society? Kent State?

Do we really want to go there again?

Think of the after shocks. Think of the rise of the right wing, the organized propaganda campaign funded by billionaires, the mass rejection of “liberal” thinking.

America is only now recovering from the revulsion evoked by the excesses of some Vietnam protesters. And I don’t think the violence did any good. I think it was the peaceful protests that turned the tide and ended the war.

The authorities lost their case when they responded to peaceful marchers with jackboot-style brutality and gunned down students at Kent State.

Muhammad Ali did infinitely more for the anti-war movement by refusing to be drafted – even facing a prison sentence and suspension from boxing – than those misguided kids who planted bombs at public buildings.

In the same way, America’s civil rights victories were won not with bombs – or even fists and clubs – but with civil disobedience.

As Martin Luther King observed:

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

By smashing the skulls of peaceful protesters like John Lewis, the authoritarian bullies lost the public’s support.

I think we should keep the lessons of history in mind as this flammable campaign season progresses. There will be many occasions that could spark violent confrontations as Trump supporters pursue their provocative path.

It would be a grave mistake for enlightened Americans to meet violence with violence. That is exactly what the fascist provocateurs are hoping for.

Click for more on Vietnam protests.

 

America’s Shame

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As I watched the melee at Donald Trump’s canceled rally last night, I wondered what the rest of the world must think of America when such scenes are projected on their TV screens.

I’m sure it doesn’t make them think of America as “great.”

“The ugly American” is already a stock character in European cultural lore and it wasn’t so long ago that the awkward American heiress was the subject of derisive humor in such countries as Britain.

I have never been to Asia, but I understand that politeness is prized in many Asian countries. From what I’ve read, it’s a great asset in doing business in places like Japan.

Barbarous behavior is looked down on and clumsiness ridiculed in many of the countries where America expects to sell its goods. Displays of rowdiness and raw violence will surely turn off potential customers for American exports.

Faced with a choice of buying from France’s Airbus or America’s Boeing, for example, global customers could decide against risking the kind of disruptions they witnessed last night and go with the French option.

Obviously, Trump must accept much of the blame for last night’s debacle. His Mussolini-style oratory and oafish calls for supporters to “rough up” protesters have provoked widespread hostility. But I hold the protesters accountable, too.

By taking Trump’s bait, they have become a party to his disgraceful clown show.

I understand the “Move On” group was behind last night’s protest. And as a Move On supporter, I am embarrassed. Activists on the left betray their cause when they sink to the level of the primitive agitators on the right.

What is called for is not riots in the street but a revolution at the ballot box. Protesting against society’s ills with mob violence and vandalism does more harm than good. As Mahatma Gandhi observed:

I object to violence because when it appears to do good the good is only temporary, the evil it does is permanent.

If you really want to make a difference, Move On, get out the vote in November instead of encouraging ugly behavior at Trump’s rallies.

Click for the news story.

 

A Tale of Two Worlds

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While Canada’s prime minister was being feted in Washington, the Republican presidential finalists were butting heads in Miami.  The contrast was staggering.

Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama (photo above) are obviously birds of a feather, true believers, messengers of hope and advocates of positive change.

They share a world vision based on inclusiveness, compassion and brotherhood.

The Republican candidates  are also birds of a feather – a completely different kind of plumage, though.

In their debate last night, they shared a range of policies based on hate and fear, cynicism and selfishness.

It was a different kind of debate from their previous shouting matches. This time they actually talked policy instead of trading personal insults. It was revealing – and sobering.

IMarco-Rubio think the debate’s defining moment was when Marco Rubio (at right) explained how his unskilled parents were welcomed to America but that was then, this is now. Yes, now that he and his are here, there’s no room for others, bar the door.

That kind of me-first  thinking was evident throughout the debate. And that was not its most terrifying aspect. In a night that ripped the mask off the Republican Party’s grim face, the candidates vied with each other in promising a meaner, tougher, no-holds-barred America.

They even discussed strategies to get around international laws against torturing prisoners of war and targeting civilians.

The candidates revealed that Social Security would be destined for change if any of them became President, and they all agreed that America’s tax dollars should go first to the military, not to the old, the hungry or the sick.

Under any one of them, America’s military would be a terrifying force and they would use it to bully the rest of the world, so that Americans could rule supreme and take whatever global resources they want.

There were minor differences of course. But while the candidates disagreed on strategy, their goals were remarkably similar.

They envisage a mighty and ruthless America, accepting only those immigrants who would be useful to the economy and rejecting those who need help most desperately.

In this America, you could forget about civil rights and social safety nets. There would be no room for “political correctness” or “nanny government.”

It would be a tough, uncompromising America, in which workers would have to wait more years before retiring and the sick would have to fend for themselves. Individual states would be left to provide what education they wanted to – however and  to whomever they saw fit.

The old would be forced to keep working and children would probably sell matches in the street as they did in the days of Dickens.

As Republicans see it, we live in a merciless, hate-filled world where might is right and compassion is weakness. And we should just deal with it.

As for me, I prefer the kinder, gentler vision of Obama and Trudeau.

Click for more on the debate.

More on Trudeau’s visit.